This year, for my 30th birthday, my fiancé gave me a pressure canner. Some might look at this gift as decidedly unromantic, but it was actually exactly what I wanted. In fact, I started telling him it was what I wanted sometime back in February, more than three months ahead of time, just in case he got it into his head to get me jewelry or some other impractical bauble.
However, since my birthday back in May, the only thing the canner (a 16-quart aluminum Presto) has been doing is look pretty while sitting quietly under one of my dining room chairs. You see, while I understood the basics of pressure canning intellectually, the reality of it still scared me a bit. So I let the canner sit, satisfying my canning needs by making batch after batch of preserves and pickles, that needed nothing more than a good, hot water bath to set to shelf stable rights.
The thing that finally pushed me to try my pressure canner was the recipe for Ham Stock from the cookbook Almost Meatless. It was finally time to conquer my pressure canner nerves once and for all.
Stocks like this are incredibly useful cooking cast member to have on hand, as they gives you the ability to boost the flavor of many a meal while still keeping them light on meat. Not having the remnants of a ham laying around, I got my hands on a couple of nice, meaty ham hocks with which to make the stock.
As soon as I fired up the stock pot, a wonderfully smoky/porky scent began to fill the apartment. Scott and I sat around, enjoying the aroma and becoming increasing hungry as the broth bubbled away. After it had cooked for two hours, I fished the hocks out of the pot with a pair of tongs, removed the meat to a plate and returned the bones to the pot for another hour+ of simmer for “maximum gelatin extraction” (a tip offered by Tara that isn’t included in the book).
By the time the stock was done, it was late Sunday evening. Had I had a spare bit of room in my fridge, I would have put the stock away for the night and returned to pressure can another day (this is actually the recommended technique, as it allows you to completely defat the stock prior to canning). However, being me, my fridge was full to bursting and so I needed to push on. I strained the stock through several layers of cheesecloth to remove any particulate matter and returned it to the pot in order to bring to a boil.
While all this stock processing was going on, my quart jars were in the pressure canner heating up. Once the stock had return to a boil, I began the process of removing a jar, filling it, wiping the rim, applying the lid/ring and returning it to the pot. Instead of creating an assembly line, I processed each jar one at a time, in order to keep the jars and stock as hot as possible (part of pressure canning best practices). I’d been told by Doris of Doris and Jilly Cook that it’s important to really get those rings on there tight when pressure canning stock, as otherwise your stock will “siphon” (the official canning word for when the liquid in your jars bubbles out from underneath the lid), so before I returned each filled jar to the pot, I used a dish towel to hold it in place as I muscled the ring into place.
Once all the jars were full, I locked the pressure canner lid into place and began the process of venting the air out of the canner. After ten minutes of venting, I popped the weight onto the vent stem and watched as the pressure began to rise. Quarts of stock need to process for 25 minutes at 11 pounds of pressure (that is, if you have a gauged canner like mine. If you have a weighted canner, you process at 10 pounds of pressure).
I only have six heat options on my stove (and that includes ‘off’) so I was never able to get the canner at exactly 11 pounds, it hovered around 13 pounds for most of the canning session. However, I knew from what I’ve read that it’s okay for the pressure to be a bit over (it can lead to overcooking, which isn’t a concern with stock, but could be a problem if you were working with fruits or veggies), as long as the pressure doesn’t drop below 11 pounds during the 25 minute processing time.
I’ve never been so delighted as I was when the timer beeped to announce that the 25 minutes were up. I danced to the kitchen to turn off the stove and wait until the pressure had dropped enough for me to remove the lid. Nearly every jar pinged the moment I lifted it out of the water, and I’ve never had lids that have so vigorously sealed. Those things are seriously concave.
So now I have seven quarts of homemade, shelf stable stock (in my insanity, I also made a batch of chicken stock – from chicken feet! – the same day I made the ham stock. In for a penny…) in my pantry. I’m particularly in love with the ham stock though, and am already dreaming of making a big pot of rice with it that I will then turn into a vege-ful fried rice. Such flavor!
The Ham Stock recipe from Almost Meatless can be found after the jump and is reprinted with permission from Ten Speed Press and the authors. Make it!
Tara and Joy suggest that you make this stock after the holidays, when many of us happen to have some ham bones laying around. While I think that’s a fine suggestion, I find this stock to be so delicious that I don’t think you should wait months before making it. I used two ham shanks from Meadow Run Farm, who raise only happy, pastured pigs, which also provided enough meat for one and a half generous meals in my little household. Everybody wins!
Pressure Canned Ham Stock
- 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
- 2 medium onions cut into 1-inch chunks
- 2 medium carrots cut into 1-inch chunks
- 2 stalks celery cut into 1-inch chunks
- 2 cloves garlic smashed
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- 2 to 3 pounds ham bones shank, hock, or left over from spiral ham
- 1 cup loosely packed parsley leaves about 4 sprigs
- 10 black peppercorns
- 1 sprig thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 4 to 5 quarts cold water
- Heat oil in a stockpot over medium-high heat. Add the onions, carrots, celery, and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 to 7 minutes, or until the vegetables just begin to brown.
- Pour in the wine and scrape the bottom of the pan to release the browned bits.
- Add the bones and the parsley, peppercorns, thyme, bay leaf and water. Bring the liquid to a boil, then drop the heat to medium and simmer for at least 2 hours.
- Strain the liquid through a mesh strainer into a clean pot, discarding the solids. Use immediately, or cool and transfer the stock to the refrigerator or freezer (or pressure can it!) for later use.
Darn you, woman! I am now wanting a pressure canner 902823472385798 times more. Oh, to not stuff my tiny freezer with stock..
I’ve always frozen my stock, but this spring I helped my mother-in-law can some fish in her pressure canner. I’m still not ready to use it on my own, but I’ve been making chicken stock today to take over to her place and can tomorrow. Oh, I look forward to having it in a jar, and not in the freezer!
Doggone! I wondered what you were going to do for the potluck! “Awesome,” as my 2-year-old says. I keep going back and forth on whether I should conquer my own fear of the pressure canner.
I have been pining for a pressure canning set for ages. This might have just pushed me over the edge. 🙂
Having now crossed over to the pressure canning side, I firmly believe that everyone should give it a try. It wasn’t hard at all, felt totally safe and now I have gorgeous homemade stock that’s ready to go and isn’t taking up space in my fridge or freezer.
Maybe consider going in on a pressure canner with a couple of friends if it feels too expensive? Mine was $80 which isn’t actually all that much for a piece of cookware and would be downright affordable if split between several people.
Just wondering if any jars broke? I was under the impression if you do anything over finger tight on the bands before canning the lids can buckle or jars can break because they can not release the pressure. Have you had any problems with this? Thanks
Bad idea. they will be using it when you need it. I now have two because one was always being used.
That’s it. Clearly, a pressure canner should be my next big kitchen-related purchase. It would be worth it to have all that freezer space back!
Yum. I have a garden full of greens that need to be cooked up…I am thinking this stock would be really good as the ellixir to cook them. Do you think it would work?
Ivy, I used it to braise down a mix of chard, kale and mustard greens a couple of nights ago and it was divine. -Marisa
What a great idea! I have so much stock in my freezer, but hadn’t thought og canning it. Brilliant! I even have a pressure canner (also sitting in a box since it was purchased because it makes me nervous). Thanks!
I have an older pressure canner with a weight gague (which I think does not “lose” it’s calibration like an older dial gague canner). I was freezing green beans last night and thinking about canning them, but still a little scared of the process. Maybe I will drag it out of the garage and give it a try…………..
Yum! Think of those yummy bean soups you’ll make in the winter from your work in the summer. My pressure canner has been getting the workout this summer… first with chicken and this week with green beans. Bravo to you to jumping in with the pressure canner!
Canning stock makes me so nervous, you make it seem doable. It would take the burden off my already overstuffed freezer.
I just watch my pressure canner. We have all heard the stories of it about blowing up the house. If you watch it and adjust the heat it is not as a big of deal as we have all heard. I might just do some chicken broth now. I have went back and forth, to can it or freeze it. I have a huge freezer, but if you don’t have to use space and sometimes you thaw it out and it’s more than you need and then you refreeze it. That settles it going to pressure can broth. When I don’t know, but I’m going to do it. I love the blog and keep the ideas coming.
Great blog! Doris isn’t correct about having to super tighten the bands – just tighten them until resistance is met. Happy canning!
I pressure-canned some homemade chicken stock a few weeks ago, but something went wrong. The jars all sealed, but when I opened one to try to use it, it smelled and tasted funny (I didn’t use it), so did the second jar I opened. So we dumped it all. Not sure if it got “overcooked” or something. I don’t know if I’ll try it again or not. I have plenty of freezer space (we have an extra freezer that I pretty much only use for stocks).
as for unromantic gifts – my partner claims the composter as her favorite ever… just proves how well you are known and loved for being yourself!
I’m in the market for a pressure cooker–to can stocks at least, but also to cook meats and beans. I have friends from India and Nepal who use one all of the time to cook. It seems like a great way to cook with less energy and time, and I’d love to be able to can some of the things I have to freeze now. I’m curious about what you were looking for in a pressure cooker and if yours has met your specifications. Would you feel like a 16 qt. pressure cooker is too big to make dinner with? Would you feel like anything smaller would be too small for canning? Please share with us how you made your decision on model and size and if you would change your mind. Thanks so much! I have really appreciated your blog.
A pressure cooker is not a pressure canner. You can cook in a canner but you cannot safely can in a cooker. Think all thumbs are fingers but not all fingers are thumbs. A good starter canner is the presto 23 qt available at walmart, rural king, farm and fleet, etc.
The people in India remove the rubber gasket and use it for baking. Such resourceful people.
Great post with lots of helpful information. My grandmother used to pressure can stuff (greenbeans, meat, corn) but I’ve never gotten a pressure cooker/canner but would dearly like one (as long as I can find a place to keep it in my smallish NYC kitchen). Stock seems like a perfect thing to can at home – it’s easy to make and very useful. I have some chix stock in my freezer right now, but space is tight. Ah, space.
Well now I’m convinced! A pressure canner is worth it’s weight in stock, for sure!
My DiL wants a pressure cooker/canner for her ‘big’ Christmas gift. I’d also like to know about how to choose, since she hasn’t clued me (or son) in on make/model.
I had the same fears about using a pressure canner so really researched to find the safest one. I settled on an All American Pressure Canner which I purchased on the internet. It was expensive but all the information pointed it to being the best and safest and it comes in several sizes. If you are going to can very much it pays to purchase this canner. I have used it quite a bit for the last 2 canning seasons and have not been sorry I put the money into it that I did. Just a note though, you can’t can with a small pressure cooker (the kind you cook with) – you must use a pressure canner for canning. If you search the internet when purchasing this canner you will find places that have better prices than others and occasionally a sale. With the present economic situation and food shortages that have been predicted it pays to can as much food as you can now while it is available. Happy Canning!!!
An AA canner IS NOT any better, safer, or easier to use than other brands! They just claim it is to convince people to spend the money on one. It’s like comparing Cadillacs to Chevys. It nice if you can afford the caddy, but the Chevy is just fine! I have never owned an AA and have no desire to. A friend had one but sold it and bought a Presto because she hated turning all those knobs! Comparing a Presto at $80-$120 to an AA at $200-$400, I’ll stick with the Presto! My family has been canning with Prestos and Mirros for 4 generations, with never an accident!
I have a 6 qt and a 12 qt. I use them both to can as well as cook meals. I can only can pints in the smaller one but that’s OK. I can’t imagine not having these wonderful additions to my kitchenware!
According to USDA and Ball, you are not supposed to use anything smaller than a 12 qt. pot. If will not hold 4 quart jars standing up, then it is not safe to use to can because the timing will be off, making the food unsafe. As somebody else stated, you can cook in a pressure canner but you can’t can in a pressure cooker. Canning times take into consideration the time it takes to bring the pot up to pressure and the time to bring it back down to zero. Smaller pots do both too quickly.
I want to also add that, once you’ve conquered your pressure canner fears, you should get your canner checked yearly by your local Agriculture Extension Service. They should have a procedure for checking your gauge to be sure it’s reading psi correctly and for checking the seal made by the rubber ring inside the lid. This is essential! It is quite possible for a gauge to read high or low by a pound or even two and you not know it. Pressure canning is wonderful and safe–IF directions are followed precisely. Enjoy!
Thanks for the reminder, Beth!
I have been using the same pressure canner that I originally ordered from the Sears catalog 28 years ago. It is branded as a Sears canner, but it was made by Presto. Still going strong. I can venison in stew meat chunks and also venison chili, as well as pinto beans in quart jars to go with the chili. The processing time for meat is a long time compared to a water bath canning project, but definitely worth it. It makes me feel secure that some of the meat is not in the freezer, subject to the whims of the electric company or the freezer breaking down.
I also pressure can anything that is low acid. I started canning a layered vegetable combo in quart jars to go with canned meat for a quick soup or stew. Potatoes on the bottom, followed by carrots, then celery and onions. Works great! Just follow the directions and don’t be afraid of the canner!
RE: Just a note though, you can’t can with a small pressure cooker (the kind you cook with) – you must use a pressure canner for canning.
I’ll respectfully disagree with this statement. I use a small pressure cooker for canning in pints and half pints. It will only hold about 6 half pints or 4 pints, but it saves space in my freezer when I have leftovers or find meats on sale or harvest my small garden. I would certainly prefer a larger canner (and now actually have one that will hold 16 quarts – WOW), but a small one has worked for me.
Wonderful blog by the way! Thank you for all your hard work!
And I have to disagree with you. Yes, you “can” do it, meaning you are able to do it, BUT you shouldn’t do it!
According to USDA and Ball, you are not supposed to use anything smaller than a 12 qt. pot. If will not hold 4 quart jars standing up, then it is not safe to use to can because the timing will be off, making the food unsafe. As somebody else stated, you can cook in a pressure canner but you can’t can in a pressure cooker. Canning times take into consideration the time it takes to bring the pot up to pressure and the time to bring it back down to zero. Smaller pots do both too quickly for safety.
I have been canning my own stock for many years. I prefer this, because you can completely control the salt. Purchased stock and boullion is loaded with salt. I also can beef stock. I use bare beef bones…the less meat on them the better.
To Natalie in reply #15. Canned chicken broth will often have a bit of an unpleasant smell when the jar is first opened…beef broth will too. I think it is because of the higher amount of protien coming from the bone marrow. If the jar is sealed well…you should be able to tell that from the pressure release when opened…the product will be safe. And also, once the broth is mixed with other ingredients, the protien odor subsides. But freezing is a great method of preservation also….just more work and time involved when using it. Which ever way you choose to preserve it, the richness of homemade broth is so very much worth the work in making it 🙂
I made stock last night with just the bones, peppercorns, salt and a slash of ACV. Do you think that it is still ok to pressure can? I wasn’t sure if the recipe must be exact? Thanks!
As long as it’s a clear liquid, you can follow the directions for canning stock!
how long should I can ham stock if I use jelly jars? love to flavor green beans and things but I live alone so I don’t need that much
Doesn’t the water boil out? Or do you continue to add water? Also, I have read for chicken/turkey stock that you let it simmer for 48 hours. Should this be simmered that long too? Thanks for your help
The pot is sealed, so the water doesn’t go anywhere. And there’s really no need to cook stock for 48 hours.
Will be trying this recipe in the Next couple of days. However I have a Fagor duo pressure cooker which can only process 3 quarts at a time or 5 pints. I keep reading that these are unsafe but I have to disagree. I understand that pressure cookers cannot be used as a canner but this one is sold as a pressure cooker Duo. I have read my manual any times over as the fear of getting anyone sick is paramount to me. I am in the process of getting a larger one so that I can process more at one time. I
Love the idea of ham stock…my question is do you have to use the dry white wine or can you leave it out…would it change the taste? Thank you Marissa and can’t wait to try this!
You definitely don’t need the wine. It’s fine without it.